Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die? If you haven’t pondered the question, you are missing the crux of Christianity. It is at the cross of Christ that God’s justice and mercy meet.
One of the tragedies of being human is that we sin. We all do what we should not do and fail to do what God requires, our conscience testifies. People usually respond by saying, “Well, everyone does what they shouldn’t do. Nobody is perfect.” I completely agree with that statement, but that does not change God’s standard– “be perfect therefore as I am perfect” (Mat. 5). The prevalence of sin does not obligate God to lower His standard for humanity. On the contrary, the bar remains ever the same, for God is unchanging. This presents a problem for humanity, how is sin reconciled before the God whose standard is unchanging?
As human beings, when we show mercy to people, it is always at the expense of justice. Someone deserves a certain consequence or punishment for injustice, however for mercy’s sake it is withheld. We don’t pour out what a person rightfully deserves. Justice is sacrificed at the expense of mercy.
God does not dispense mercy at the expense of justice like we do. If God chose to “simply forgive sin” He would cease to be God. The very essence of being God is His holiness. He must punish sin. If an earthly judge just let prisoners run rampant because he wanted to be merciful that would be unspeakable. It would be a gross violation of justice. If that’s the standard for a mere earthly judge, how much more holy must God be? As the prophet Habakkuk states, “His eyes are too pure as to behold evil.” God will not sacrifice justice for mercy.
Every individual’s sin demands payment, and God desires that no one be separated from Him. He reconciles the tension through Jesus. It is at the cross of Christ that God can be both just and merciful. The Lord bore the sins of the world so that those who believe in Him could have everlasting life. The cross is the only foundation on which any person stands before God; it is where the righteous demands of the law are satisfied. Acceptance before God is not found in what you do, rather it based solely on the finished work of Christ. (That’s why no one can boast it is all of grace. If you work for it then there is boasting, but if it is a gift boasting is void.) If salvation could be achieved through what we do, then Jesus Christ died for nothing (Gal. 2).
On the cross, Jesus experienced the full wrath of the Father. Christ paid the penalty of sin for each and every individual, so that those who believe in Him alone through faith could be saved (Eph. 2). “By a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 9). It is a gift to be received for those who recognize their need for a Savior.
Only at the cross is justice satisfied and mercy offered to those who believe in Him.
How deep the Father’s love for us,
how vast beyond all measure
that He would give His only Son
and make a wretch His treasure.